Friday, September 30, 2016

Beginning to Think About Christmas? Check out this Blast from the Past!

Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? If you are one of those people that like to shop early and get things done then think about this great item that we reviewed and loved a few years ago. This may be a blast from the past but it is still a much loved toy today!



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It never ceases to amaze me how God places things in our life, right when we need them. life is never easy in a household that has one child is autistic and another child that we think is autistic. Our teenage son, John Allen, the only one of our three children that isn't on the autism spectrum, often seems to get  "the short end of the stick". Being a teenager in and of itself is difficult without having two disabled brothers. John Allen's wishes and desires often have to Be put on the back burner because of therapies, doctor's appointments, or other things that pertain to his two younger brothers.. There is often resentment and contention in the ranks. Sarah and I are always looking for things and ways that promote unity in our household.. When we received a Toydle Toy Fort to review for the TOS Homeschool Crew, we had no idea what a blessing it would be.

I gave a brief blip about the Toydle Toy Fort a few weeks ago. You can find that  informational review  by clicking here. Everything that I said there is true. Toydle Toy Forts really are:


  • Well made in America

  • Sturdily made of quality PVC piping.

  • Easy to put up.

  • Easy to take down and store away.

  • Creative.

  • Educational

  • Guaranteed

  • Just plain fun.

but for us the Toydle Toy Fort was much more. It was something that brought our three boys together. While building the Toydle Toy Fort they learned to:


  • Work together.

  • Plan together.

  • Listen to each other's ideas.

  • Cooperate with one another.

  • Be creative together.

  • Have fun together.

  • Enjoy something other than video games.

  • Get along with one another.

Sarah and I looked on in amazement as these things were occurring. While we watched, we also learned something about each of our three sons. When given the chance. John Allen can be a good leader. Joshua is a fantastic organizer.  Jacob is fearless and thinks that he can do anything that is two big brothers can do. take a look at some of the pictures that I took while the construction was going on. I think you'll see what I mean.



Now, I'm not saying that everything has been hunky-dory since we received our Toydle Toy Fort, but it has shown us that there is hope. I'm also not saying that the same reaction will occur in every family.  But I do know one thing – no matter what your kids will have fun.. The Toydle Toy Fort has been one of the best items that we have ever reviewed.  I would recommend it for any family. It's easy to use. Really, it reminds me of a giant set of Tinker Toys but much sturdier and much better. And, one of the best things is, that it is fully guaranteed. If one of the PVC  pipes happens to break they'll replace it for free. If you happen to leave when of the connector blocks out in the rain, don't worry about it, it's guaranteed as well. As I mentioned in my previous review, that Toydle company was started by a man named Robert Brownfield. After he brought a toy home for his son and it broke 5 min. after his son opened it, Robert realized that there was a need for well-built toys. According to the Toydle website, all of the things that his company makes are hand cut or hand formed by American hands. I can testify that Toydle forts really are well made. As you can see in the slideshow above, after my boys made the fort, they invited all the kids do come to the mission to play in it. Even with all of that wear and tear, not a thing was broken. When we finally needed the room in the mission, the fort was easily taken down and stored away in the convenient bag that it came in. As I said before, I would recommend Toydle forts to anyone.

Just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above to get to the Toydle website. The forts come in two different sizes. The regular Toydle Toy Fort sells for $149 and the Big Toydle Fort sells for $229.99. Each comes with specially cut, sturdy, tubes, hand made connector blocks, clips and a handy dandy carry bag. And don't forget, everything is unconditionally guaranteed! Check them out, you won't be disappointed. Other folks from the TOS Homeschool Crew reviewed Toydle Toy Forts and you can find but they had to say by clicking here. Happy Home Educating!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent a Toydle Toy Fort for free in order to try out and give my honest review on this blog.

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What Do You Do When You are Drowning in Science!

Help! I'm surrounded in Science!

Most of you know that I am a member of the Homeschool Review Crew and I review great schoolhouse curriculum on this blog. Well, this past year I learned once again that God has a sense of humor. I had been lamenting on how I didn't have a really good science curriculum to use with my two youngest. I really didn't think that they were ready for the curriculum that I used with John Allen, my oldest. I always tried to find literature rich curriculum for him because he loved to read. However, my two youngest each have their own reading difficulties so I didn't think that they were ready for the same books I used with him. I prayed for a good science curriculum. 

Wouldn't you know it, God sent five of them to me this past year. Each time I thought "This is the one!" I was determined that was what God wanted me to use. Then the next one would come along and I would think the same thing. This past year alone I have reviewed three great physical science books and two online programs and thought they were all fantastic. Just the other day another great curriculum was offered for us to review and I am chomping at the bit to review that one as well. Of course I think it would be the greatest thing for my boys.

Please make the choice for me. Oh, I know that you can't really make the choice without seeing them, but I'm going to show you each one anyone. It would be selfish to keep all of these great programs a secret. So here they are complete with links to my reviews. 



EdTechLens Rainforest Journey is a great online program that teaches you about the rainforest. My two boys loved it and still ask about going back and working with it. They learned so much just during our review time. Here is my complete review.


Science Shepherd was another great online program. This is a Christian based program that my kids loved as well. The lessons are short but fascinating which is just what my kids need. Click here to read my full review. 


If you are a unit study person then you would love Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers. It uses stuff from around the home or that is easily obtainable to do some great experiments. I loved using it and so did the kids. Here is my full review. 


People say that the internet can be an invaluable learning tool. However, if you don't know where to look on the internet it can be a real pain. Surfing the Net Science teaches you how to use the internet to learn in a safe way. We had a lot of fun with this. Click here for my review.


Do you remember me saying that I didn't think that Joshua and Jacob were ready for the curriculum that John Allen used when he was their age? Well, how wrong I was. The very first book we used with John Allen was Exploring Creation through Astronomy by Apologia. Well, when I had the chance to review the second edition of this great book I jumped at the chance but wondered how my two youngest would do. They loved it! Here is the link to my review of this great new edition.

So, there you have it. What is a homeschooler to do when there is so much great stuff out there for your kids to use? I can't make up my mind! Oh, and that new science review that I may be doing? Well, since I haven't even been chosen yet for it then I can't tell you a lot about it yet. But when I do, I will let you know. I'm sure I will have my hair pulled out by then trying to decide between all of these outstanding choices!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Awesome Fantastic Heirloom Audio Production of The Cat of Bubastes - A Homeschool Review Crew Review!

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes


I am sitting here looking at a 20 year old son with a huge grin on his face. He's had it on his face for almost two hours. I am also looking at a 10 year old active boy who has been sitting still with rapt attention for that same amount of time. It's one of our favorite all time activities and we absolutely love it! We are listening to another fantastic edition of The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty by Heirloom Audio Productions!

We have had the great pleasure of reviewing many of these great audio adventures and the ones that we haven't received to review we have bought - yes, they are that good! The newest one, that just came out, is The Cat of Bubastes

Now usually my oldest, John Allen, loves these productions, but this one is a little more special to him. You see, he is a big G.A. Henty fan, and the very first G.A. Henty book that he read was . . . you guessed it . . . The Cat of Bubastes. I think because it was his first, it has always been his favorite. Because of homeschooling all of my kids have had the great pleasure of either reading or having read to them some absolutely fantastic books. I will often ask the kids to rate their top ten favorite books that they have read or listened to. It fluctuates often, but The Cat of Bubastes is always in John Allen's top ten. That is why he has had a huge grin on his face the entire time he has been listening. Since the very first G.A. Henty audio came out from Heirloom Audio Productions, he has excitedly wondered when they were going to do The Cat of Bubastes. He even asked me to write to encourage them to adapt it next. When I told him that we were, indeed, going to get to review The Cat of Bubastes he was as excited as I think I have ever seen him and, yes, he is 20 years old.

As I mentioned above, we have had the great pleasure of listening to every single one of The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty and, if you have read any of my reviews about them before, you will know that they are all absolutely fantastic. I remember the first one that we ever listened to on one of our frequent ministry trips. We put the disc in our van's CD player and for over two hours the van was absolutely quite! The boys (as well as Sarah and I) were transfixed. It was absolutely amazing. This was at the beginning of a three week long ministry trip and I recall being so thrilled with this particular CD that we ended up ordering the next one to be shipped to one of our stops so that we could listen to it on the way home.


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes


We have been thrilled with them all, and, as you can probably tell, we are absolutely thrilled with The Cat of Bubastes as well. It just as good (John Allen says it's better) than the rest. It is done so well that you can literally close your eyes and see what is going on. With these productions you don't need a movie screen. The music, the all-star cast, the sound effects - they all make it easy for you to imagine and see what is going on in your head. 

This production features such actors as Brian Blessed from Star Wars, Tarzan and Robin Hood; Anthony Daniels from Star Wars; Sylvester McCoy from Dr. Who and The Hobbit; Elizabeth Counsell from The Chronicles of Narnia; Russell Boulter from Ben Hur; and John Rhys-Davies from The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones. The original score is by John Campbell. Let me tell you, this is no half-way done amateur production. This is professionally and wonderfully done. 

What makes it even better, is that all of G.A. Henty's novels are historical but also Christian based. They bring out how God has directed history and, the producers of this series, who are Christians, allow God to guide in the production.

The Cat of Bubastes is a tale about a young prince,Amuba and his faithful protector, Jethro, who have been captured and taken to Egypt. They were given to a kind priest who worships the gods of Egypt but has been searching for a long time for something more. Through many adventures Amuba and Jethro along with their master and other faithful friends come to know who the one true God is. It is an exciting story filled with adventure and some amazing twists and turns that could only have been put together by the hand of God Himself!

Along with the great two CD audio production, we received free downloads of several things - The MP3 Version of The Cat of Bubastus; The Soundtrack of the beautiful music written by the Emmy Award winning composer John Campbell; an e-book version of the original novel of The Cat of Bubastus written by G.A. Henty; a printable cast poster; a printable Inspirational Verse poster; a study and discussion guide; a behind the scenes video; and an unlimited subscription to the Live the Adventure Letter Website and E-Newsletter.


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes


Most of the above is self-explanatory, but let me fill you in on the great study and question guide. Since G.A. Henty's books are very historical, we use them in our homeschool quite a bit. The guides that Heirloom Audio Productions offer with their CD's are wonderful. They give background information for each audio about the time periods and events that led up to the time of the story. They also provide Listening Well (comprehension) questions for each track of the audio as well as Discussion Questions and Vocabulary Words for each track. What I like the best are the Expand Your Learning sections which talk about such things as Dung Beetles and The Diet of Egyptians. This little PDF download is fantastic!

I think that you have figured out that we love this Heirloom Audio Production of The Cat of Bubastes and all of the other productions of The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. To find out more about this adventure and the other adventures just click on one of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this product just click on the banner below. Happy Listening!


Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
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Life Lessons from Thumper - Loving Your Neighbor



One of the things that my dear wife Sarah frequently prays is "Lord help me to learn the lesson in the classroom and not on the field trip." She learned this in one of the many great Beth Moore studies that she has attended. What it means is that it is a lot better to learn one of God's lessons from reading the Bible or from it being passed down by a wise Christian person than learning it from experience - especially a lesson that can be painful.

I often think about that prayer and how it applies to me personally. I think of something painful that happened in the past and wish that I had learned the lesson in the classroom and not out in life. I wish that someone had told me and warned me about things before it happened. 

Sometimes I'll read things, be talking to someone, or be thinking about my life and God will impress on me that there is a life lesson in what I am reading, hearing or thinking about. God impressed on me recently that maybe it is time for me to be that person that passes down some life experiences to those younger than me. (Ugh! Can I really be getting that old?)

God did that just the other day. There was something that happened on social media that had a life lesson that God told me to tell a specific group of people about. After praying and thinking about it God impressed on me that it should be through this blog. So, I am starting a new series. It won't be weekly but I am praying that it will be regular.

Okay, before I give you the name of this new series I need to tell you the background. For the past few years my family has been blessed to help out at a camp in Canada for one week in the summer. We have grown to love the senior staff, cabin leaders, and support staff. Way back when we first went up we were told that we had to come up with a camp name. It couldn't be our real name, it had to be something else and it usually was something crazy. Some of the camp names other staff had chosen are Mushroom, Samwidge (yes that is spelled correctly) Curly Fry, Cheeko, Squirb, Maximus . . . you get the picture. So, after not much thought, I chose Thumper. I am a very jittery person and never can sit still, so that seemed to fit. So, since this life lesson is for the staff from that camp - a staff that we love dearly - the name of this series is "Life Lessons from Thumper".


The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.

Now for the actual life lesson.

A facebook friend of mine posted something the other day. This friend is a strong Christian and I'm sure didn't mean anything by this post. At any other time of life I might have mentioned the same thing. I can be very good at judging people and I'm not talking about judging in a good way. If I don't watch myself and remember to check my spirit, I can be very good at seeing a something and coming to all sorts of conclusions. So, this particular post could have easily something that I wrote. I am going to paraphrase what was said just in case he or someone else that saw the post reads this. So here's the paraphrased post:


  • You won't believe what I just saw! Some lady just rode her scooter into the restaurant where I'm eating. She had a carton of cigarettes in her front basket and a case of beer in her back basket. She rolled up to the bar and ordered a margarita! 
I read some of the comments. They (again paraphrased) ranged from "I wonder if they arrest drivers of scooters for driving under the influence" to "I'll bet she's already spent time in jail" to "It's people like that who give a bad name to humanity." And of course the post and many "likes" as did some of the comments.

Like I said, my Facebook friend really isn't a bad person. He was just making a comment on humanity around him. What he didn't know is that lady is my next door neighbor. No, I'm not talking figuratively here. I'm talking literally. I know the exact lady that he is talking about because she actually is my neighbor. Day in and day out as I am sitting on the porch doing devotions. I watch her as she stumbles out of the house and gets on her scooter to run errands. I watch her as she rolls down our street and when she rolls back to her house and I pray for her each time.

Sarah and I have been witnessing to she and her mother since before we even moved into our apartment. We have visited and prayed with them over difficulties, hospital stays, nursing home rehabs and more. We have known what was going on for a long time and they have confided in us. Although we don't agree with how they are handling their life problems, we somewhat know why they do what they do.

We have learned to love our neighbors and the people that we minister to where they are. We learned a long time ago (and still are) that you can never tell on the outside what a person is really going through. 

In Mark 12:31 the Bible tells us that the second greatest commandment is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Your neighbor isn't just the people that live beside you or across the street, it is all people. The folks you work with, the folks you go to school with, the folks you go to church with, the folks that you see and pass on the street every day - all of them are your neighbors. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, we need to look past their problems and frailties. We need to remember that life is hard. It's hard for we Christians as well. The only difference is that we have God to help us and the Holy Spirit to guide us. 

Instead of looking at the mistakes in people, we need to be looking at them like Christ. Christ sees them - he sees even us - as frail, weak, individuals that he wants to redeem, and make strong with His strength. Unfortunately I am guilty many times of looking at people through eyes of rejection and judgement. I probably would have looked at this lady with those eyes if I wouldn't have known her. I am just as guilty.

Lord,

Help me to see people through your eyes. Help me not to judge others that I see on the street or that I come into contact with. Help me to love people with your love and remember that everyone is your creature and everyone needs a chance. Maybe that person that I am judging is the exact person that you want me to be a witness to but because of my prejudices I am rejecting. Please help me to love and not judge. Please shine your light through me every day to everyone.

Amen



The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program Really is the Ultimate! - A Homeschool Review Crew Review

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}


This is an unusual thing to talk about when reviewing something, but let me tell you how I review products. For downloadable products that you use on your computer such as one I'm reviewing today, The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning, I usually look over the program myself, use it with my kids, then look over it as a total program again. Well I just got done with my final overview look of this program and was taken aback once again with how wonderful this program is.

For years I was an educational therapist and worked with children that had learning problems. Some of the students that we worked with had a difficult time reading so we would take them back to the very basics of reading using a great phonics program. Although the phonics program that we used came from a book, The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program reminds me so much of the program I used to use.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}


Now, don't get me wrong. I said above that this program is a wonderful program. I have reviewed a lot of phonics programs that have said that they were wonderful. Usually, however, what they viewed as "wonderful" was a lot of graphics or flashy animation that went along with the teaching. If that is what you are looking for - a flashy but weak program - stop reading now! If, however, you are looking for an excellent phonics program where your child will learn how to read through a super strong but non-flashy program, then you have come to the right place. The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program is what you are looking for.

First of all, this program is a downloadable program where you download the program and are given a license to type in in order to actually use the program. All of this was very easy to do even for a non technical person like me.

Since Jacob, my youngest son who is using this program, is a very weak reader, I began with the basics with him, so I am going to be describing some of the beginning things. Although I will be mentioning that a a child can work independently with this program, it is recommended and is best if a parent sits beside the child while they are working through the lesson. Also, I said that I would be describing the basic lessons since that's what we worked with, however, as I glanced through the advanced things, all of them went through the same exact steps as the beginning sounds which were:


  • Idea/Pattern
  • Word List
  • Words
  • Sentences
The Idea/Pattern stage is where the new sound is introduces. It will show the letter or group of letters at the top, then, in the box below, will explain the sound to the student. If a parent is working with their child then they can read what is in the box, or, they or the independently working child can click on the microphone symbol next to the box and a man's voice will read what is in the box to the student. You can do this however many times that you want before clicking on the arrow to the next step.

The Word List is just a list of words using that sound. What I do with Jacob is have him go down the list of words to see if he can sound them out. If he needs a little help, then he can hover over the word with his mouse and the man's voice will read the word to him. However, here's is the really neat part! If he can't sound out a word, or if he sounds it out incorrectly, then he can use his mouse or touch pad to right click on the word to bring up a screen that has the word by itself at the top, and then, the word broken up into sound pieces below. Again, he can hover over the word at the top for the voice to say the word, or he can hover over each sound piece so that each individual sound is sounded out to him. Wouldn't you know it that is the exact same thing that I would do when I was an educational therapist! After he has figured out the word, Jacob can then use the back button to go back to the Word List.

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}


After the Word List section of the lesson, all of the words that were on the list are given individually just as I described above. The word is at the top and if you hover over it the word is read and the word is broken up into pieces at the bottom and you can hover over each sound. If Jacob has mastered the words using the word list then I just click through these, but, otherwise, these are very valuable to continue to help him or as a review.

Finally, the last section is the Sentence section. Several sentences are given that use words with the sound that the child just learned and often with words that the child learned previously. Again, if you hover over a word then it is read to you or if you right click on the word then you go to the page where the word is broken up into sounds. This program has thought of everything!

But, that's not all. There are several features that are invaluable! Lets say that your child knows the short a sound already but just needs some practice. You can go to the short a lesson and there are tabs at the top where you can skip right to the section that you want. So, you can skip over the introduction and go right to the word list. Or maybe to the individual words with the word broken up beneath. Or, even to the sentences! How neat and ingenious!

But, still that's not all! Say you know your child has difficulty with a certain sound so you just want to go to that lesson. Well, if you know the lesson number that features that sound, you can go right to it or you can use a search box to find the particular lesson that teaches that sound. As you can see, The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program can be used as a stand alone program or can be used in a flexible way to fit your child's needs.

I don't think that there is any doubt in your mind by this time that we are fans of The Ultimate Phonics Reading Program from Spencer Learning. This is an invaluable program that we will be using for a long time. It's great for struggling readers, English as a Second Language folks, beginning readers . . . really anyone! To find out more about this awesome program just click on any one of the highlighted tabs above. To find what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this program just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

Ultimate Phonics Reading Program {Spencer Learning}



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Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Prayers/Book One Troubles - A Homeschool Review Crew Book Review

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

I am a book lover. My wife hates it. Not that she hates reading mind you, it's just that she hates that I love to collect books. You can thank my parents for that. My parents loved to read. They instilled that love of reading into my siblings and me. It was passed down from my grandfather who had a massive library. So, I have genes in me for reading and book collecting.

Because of my love for reading I am always on the lookout for good books. These days I usually only read Christian fiction and non-fiction unless it's a good historical novel or biography of course. One of the main things that I look for is if it will help me in my Christian walk or in my ministry. When I the opportunity came up to possibly review The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles from CTM Publishing Atlanta, I researched the book a little and thought it would be an interesting read. I love spending time in prayer but often feel inadequate in my prayers. This book looked like it might help.

Little did I know that this book is just what I needed! I absolutely love the way the author, Mark S Mirza, blends Biblical Truths, history, and great story lines to teach about prayer and how satan and his demons are always trying to discourage God's followers and keep others from following God. And if there is anyone that knows about prayer it is Mark S Mirza.

Mark S Mirza used to lead Charles Stanley's Men's Prayer Ministry called "Sons of Thunder" before starting his own ministry - Common Thread Ministries to help churches and individuals with their prayer lives. Before that he was in the corporate world. I don't know what happened in his life before working in the ministry, but God always uses things for His glory and he has turned the author into a masterful storyteller and teacher.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles


There are quite a few things that I love about this book.

I love the way the way different folks throughout history are used to teach about prayer. (Yes, I even got the historical novel with this book!). From the Epaphras in the first century to Brother Alexander Rich in the 19th century to the present day world track coach from Georgia named Dale Riley. All of these men have fantastic prayer lives that God has developed in them throughout their years but all of them have troubles (hence the name of the book) of their own that they have to deal with. It's amazing how the author is able to mix troubles that are past and present and troubles that are created by the central figures and troubles that come from outside forces. Isn't that the way we are? We have troubles all around us. Troubles that we have created in the past that keep haunting us. Troubles that we are going through now that either happened because of our inadequacies or come from the outside. However, as I learned from reading this book, it doesn't matter how the troubles came, God is bigger than the troubles.

I love the way that everything is backed up by scripture. All the way through the book, the characters are praying scripture. That is something that I absolutely agree with but fail to do so often. I can see myself in so many of the situations that are happening in the novel and so many of the scriptures that they pray are perfect for things that I am going through. I am so glad that the author referenced the scriptures at the bottom of the pages where they occur.

Although I can't say that I love this, I appreciate that the author tries to give us a glimpse of what the demon world might be like. The author states in the introduction that this book is not about demons, but just to show us that demons are very real and are trying to influence us.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles is an awesome book that I would encourage anyone who is striving to improve his prayer life to read. I am definitely going to continue perusing this book and using the scriptures provided to pray over. It has and still is teaching me so much about prayer. I am looking forward to the second book in this series that is due out in December of this year.

To find out more The Pray-ers/Book One Troubles just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this book just click on the banner below. Happy reading and blessed praying!

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
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Friday, September 16, 2016

HelpTeaching.com - Another Wow! Homeschool Review Crew Review

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {HelpTeaching.com}

One of the things that I love the most about being on the Homeschool Review Crew is the diversity of products that my family gets to review. We have reviewed everything from home and health products, to complete homeschool curriculum, to games and homeschool helps. I particularly like the homeschool helps category because it can be used for an awesome array of things to help me teach and the kids to learn. The Help Teaching Pro Subscription from HelpTeaching.com is one of those products that help me and kids and they do it in an awesome way. This is one of those "WOW!" products that I am still discovering all of the uses for.

HelpTeaching.com has everything that you can think of for preschool through grade 12! There are test generators, game generators, already made up tests and worksheets for a plethora of subjects, there are even complete lessons that you can assign to your kids. The really neat thing about it is that you can even assign things to your kids on line, "invite" them via email to do the lesson online. Let me describe a few of the main sections (I don't think I could describe it all) and then I'll tell you how we are using HelpTeaching.com and how I plan on using it this year since I have some BIG plans for it!

Tests and Worksheets: My goodness this section is amazing! There are print ready worksheets and tests for English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, Early Learning and even subjects like Physical Education, Arts and Music, and Holidays. If that isn't enough, there are pre-made worksheets to help with Study Skills and Organization. And I'm not talking just the basics in these subjects either. The Math goes all of the way up to Algebra, Geometry and Statistics. Their are worksheets and tests for World History, United States History and Geography. The Science worksheets and tests cover the basics all the way to Biology, Chemistry and more. Most of the subject areas have worksheets that comply with common core as well. What's really neat is that any of these things can be printed out, or they can be done online. They can even be assigned to your students to do later.

Lessons: I also love the lesson section of this website. They have complete lessons for Language Arts, Math and Science and they include teaching and videos from great dependable companies like Khan Academy, Educator.com and Bozeman Science! Okay, I've used some of these lessons already with my boys, but I went back to check the lessons one last time for this review. The lessons go on and on and on. I just kept scrolling and scrolling and scrolling. There is everything you can think of in every one of those subjects that I just mentioned. From preschool to 12th grade. Language Arts includes grammar, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and spelling. Math goes all the way up to the high school subjects. Science also goes all the way up to highschool as well as elementary science. I am so happy I have this for a year to use!

Help Teaching Pro Subscription {HelpTeaching.com}


Game Generator: I was so happy to see this section. You can create number bingo games, word bingo games using your own words, and word searches. I love the fact that I can create word bingo games using vocabulary words, spelling words, or new words that my kids are learning. The word search is invaluable for doing words from science, history, vocabulary, or if you have a child learning to read you can include new words.

Test Maker: I've already mentioned this great feature. You can create tests using your own questions, questions that are already made for different subjects or, if you are in a hurry, you can just type in a keyword, grade level and number of questions and it will make a test for you. And, of course, you can assign this test to your student to do on line or you can print it out. Since we don't do a whole lot of testing with my two special needs boys, I haven't used this section much but it is a really fantastic tool!

Extras: I couldn't list all of the extras if I had to, but some of the neat features are worksheets and lessons for children who are learning English as a second language, Common Core questions if that is required in your state, and even practice tests for the SAT! They are adding things all of the time so by the time I write this and you all click through to the website they are likely to have more!

As you can see, I am excited about this. I have already used some of the worksheets and tests with the kids and can't wait to use more. We are studying Astronomy this year and it has a fantastic selection of worksheets and lessons that I am going to use. We are completing the second half of United States History and I am still drooling over those and picking out ones to use. The kids have a fantastic math curriculum that they are using, but I am so glad that I have a back up if something comes up that they don't understand. Ugh! I can't say enough about how glad I am that we received HelpTeaching.com to review.

To find out more about the Help Teaching Pro Subscription from HelpTeaching.com just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find out what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew though of this just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Great Things are Coming for the Homeschool Review Crew!

Homeschool Review Crew Mainstay


You all probably know that for a number of years our family has been involved with reviewing great homeschool products and telling about them on this blog. Well, what used to be known as the Schoolhouse Review Crew has just become the Homeschool Review Crew and things are changing. It is about to become even better! Stay tuned for details!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition - A Schoolhouse Review Crew Review

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review

When we first began homeschooling way back when my 20 year old was in 4th grade, I was obsessive/compulsive. It was kind of like when you have your first child. You wanted everything to be perfect and you wanted to do everything perfectly. Then, of course, your second and third children come around and all of your great plans are thrown out the window - but that's for another blog post. Anyway, I wanted everything to be perfect for John Allen and before we began I definitely did my homework. I pored over homeschool curriculum catalogs, read books, studied different homeschool methods, and talked to numerous home school parents about what they used and how it worked. One of the things that kept coming up over and over again in my research was the great Apologia Science elementary curriculum that was being written by Jeannie Fulbright. At that time, the different volumes were just being written, but there were a couple of them finished and Exploring Creation with Astronomy from Apologia Educational Ministries was one of them. So, that is what we went with for our elementary years of school.

John Allen loved it! We had a fantastic first year of Science and we continued to use all of the Exploring Creation series for the rest of our elementary years. When my two youngest reached their elementary years of schooling I always pulled out the Exploring Creation with . . . books but always put them back away for one reason or another because of my boy's learning difficulties. Finally, this year, I thought the boys might be ready for them and, lo and behold, what might be offered to the Schoolhouse Review Crew but Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition! I am so glad that we were chosen to review this new edition. It is completely updated, looks wonderful, but has the same fantastic content as before. All of the stuff that we loved with John Allen is still there but even better. Plus we received copies of the Notebooking Journal, Jr. Notebooking Journal and Audio CD as well as the Student Text to review! WOW! And they are all great. Let me go over them one by one.

Apologia: Exploring Creation with Astronomy Review


Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Student Text: As I mentioned above, the new 2nd Edition Student Text has the same great information that I remember but is updated to take into consideration new scientific discoveries.

I love that Exploring Creation with Astronomy is completely Christian. You could probably tell by the title but I just wanted to confirm that it actually is based on the six days of creation. If you don't believe in the literal six days of creation then you need to know that is what is taught in the Exploring Creation with . . .  books. There is so much scientific information in this book that it is a valuable study anyway. But, as for our house, we do believe in the literal six days and I love the fact that this series of books is scientifically based on that. I also love the fact that Jeannie Fulbright uses Bible verses throughout to enhance the study.

Having said that, the text is very scientific and your child will definitely be studying Astronomy in a scientific way. There are fourteen lessons (or chapters) in this textbook that include an introduction to Astronomy, the sun, the planets, the moon, space rocks, the Kuiper Belt and Dwarf Planets and, finally, Starts, Galaxies, and Space Travel. In the Notebooking Journals that I will discuss later there is a suggested daily schedule that is very flexible. There are 71 suggested lessons so, realistically, if you wanted to do a lesson every day then you could easily complete the whole book in a half a year. As for us, we do about three lessons a week, so it takes us about a year to complete the book. That also leaves us a little space in case we have to miss a lesson for some reason or another.

There are three main things that may be included in a lesson. Reading from the Student book, Completing something in the Notebooking Journal, or doing a Science Activity/Experiment. There are two types of experiments that can be done. You can purchase an Apologia Science Kit separately that includes everything needed for some special experiments, or you can do the suggested activities that are in the book. The ones in the book use things that are found around the house or can be easily bought. We did not receive the Apologia Science Kit that is sold separately so I can't comment on those although they look very fun. The ones included in the book are excellent, though, there are many that I remember doing with John Allen that were super fun then and were super fun for the younger two as well. Some new ones are included as well, though.

The text itself is written in a very personal and readable style. It is broken down into bite sized bits. There will be some text, then a "Think About This" activity or an experiment activity. Periodically the child is asked to stop and explain something to someone using their own words (Charlotte Mason fans would like that and so do I).

I am choosing to read the text to my kids since one is a very literal reader and the other, although he has high comprehension, is a slow reader. This allows me to stop and talk about things if needed. Never fear, however, because, remember that I mentioned above that we also received the Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition MP3 Audio book on CD. This is excellent for parents that aren't able to read the book to their kids but their kids would benefit from it. And, it is read by Jeannie Fulbright herself! What a neat thing! I love to read the book myself to the kids because I learn so much along with them, but having the MP3/CD is a fantastic resource.

We also received both the Exploring Creation with Astronomy Notebooking Journal and the Jr. Notebooking Journal to review. I am using the regular journal with my middle child, Joshua, and the Jr, journal with my youngest, Jacob. I have to do the journals in bite sized chunks since both have small motor problems. In fact, I have to do a lot of Jacobs for him. But, that is the beauty of homeschooling. You can use things and adapt things to your own children.

As far as the notebook journals go themselves, there is little difference between the two except for a few things. They both have spaces for them to write their thoughts and what they learned from each lesson. They both have really neat activities for the child to do. There are very cool lapbook type activities in both of them where you make matchbooks, mini-books and more to be included right in your journal. And, both have copywork activites that are short but beneficial and can be done in either print or cursive. The differences that I saw, though, were some of the puzzle activities. The puzzle activities were made a little easier in the Jr. journal - a letter is added to the answers in the crossword or something like that. Also, in the regular journal there is a a review activity at the end of and it is replaced with a coloring page in the Jr. journal.

We are loving Exploring Creation with Astronomy 2nd Edition by Apologia Educational Ministries. The boys love the texts and activities. I love the easiness of the lesson plans and I love that the boys are loving it. As I mentioned above. It is the same wonderful Exploring Creation with Astronomy text we loved before only updated and improved (I didn't think the first could be improved but it was). To find out more about this curriculum just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought of this science curriculum just click on the banner below. Happy Homeschooling!


Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens - An Awesome Schoolhouse Review Crew Review!

Spiritual Circle Journal


I'm going to be super honest here. As full time missionaries it is so easy to work with others to try to build up their relationship with the Lord that you sometimes neglect your own family. I can't tell you how many times that the Lord has bopped me on the head (figuratively of course) when I was praying for other kids and asked me how many times I prayed for my own kids that fervently. 

One of the things that I so often do with other kids and then am convicted about my own kids is teaching them how to have a personal devotional time. So, I was super thrilled when I found out that I would be receiving the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens from the makers of the Spiritual Circle Journal. I had looked it over on their website and it looked like just what I needed for the kids that I work with, but, especially for my own boys. 

The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens is a journal, but, then again, it's not a journal. It has all of the elements of a regular devotional journal, but it is ingeniously made in such a way that it doesn't seem tedious for kids. So many times, children and teenagers will look at a journal or look at ways to journal and think that there is no way that they can do it. Often it looks like too much writing for a child and even some teens to handle. I know that with my two youngest, there is absolutely no way that they can write a lot because of small motor problems and other learning difficulties. The Spiritual Circle Journal does require some writing but it is in small but concise doses. 


Spiritual Circle Journal


The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens is based on the adult version called . . . well . . . the Spiritual Circle Journal. As you can see by the picture above, your "journaling" is divided into nine prayer areas:


  • Journal Entry
  • Lyric/Verse
  • Message
  • Confession
  • God Moving
  • Lesson Learned Light-Bulb Moment
  • Prayer
  • Thank You/Adoration
  • Actions 
Four of these prayer areas are based on what we might say to God and five are based on what God is saying to us. A child is to use his journal after a sermon, Sunday School or devotional time. 

I like everything about this concept, but here are a few things that I really like about the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens:

1. I really like that, in the instructions, the author and creator of The Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens, Liz Lassa, really encourages us to teach the child about the nudging of the Holy Spirit in filling out these areas. To me that is very important. So many times we quickly process a sermon or devotional and make it fit how we are feeling instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit to teach us what He wants us to know. Our feelings are important to God and to our relationship with God, but that isn't the whole picture. We need to listen to the Holy Spirit as well.

2. I like that this method is super easy. For people that like to journal it is okay to write lines and lines of what God is teaching us, but for a beginner and for children, sometimes it can be overwhelming to think that is what we have to do. With the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens, a child is encouraged to just write one line for each area. In fact, if a child can't think of something for an area or if the Holy Spirit isn't nudging him in a specific area, they can leave it blank. Which brings me to the next area.

3. I like that it is super flexible. As I just mentioned you don't have to fill in every area. Or, you can fill in some areas today, pray and think about things, and then fill in other areas tomorrow. I like that it can be used once a week, a few times a week, or every day. The parent is encouraged to make it fun for the child. There is also a space above the journal page where a child can draw a picture, place stickers or pictures or whatever to help in his experience.

4. I like that in the instructions the parent is encouraged to be very pro active in his child's devotional/journaling experience. That is very important to me. I think that a parent needs to know what is going on in his child's life. Not necessarily to read his private journal, but to have a relationship where there is good communication.


Spiritual Circle Journal


I think it is very evident that I like the Spiritual Circle Journal method and the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens. I say "I", because I wanted to try this method out first before trying it out with my kids. My oldest regularly journals through the Bible but this is new to my two youngest. They are such different learners that I wanted to know what it was like before teaching it to them. I think they will love it. It may take some time, but I know my boys and I think this is just what they need. 

To find out more about the Spiritual Circle Journal for Kids and Teens just click on any one of the highlighted links above. To find what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought just click on the banner below. Happy Journaling!


Spiritual Circle Journal
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